In several weeks’ time, we’ll be going to San Diego. This is hardly a planned thing and almost could be considered impromptu. Our summer vacation plans this year have been thwarted and thwarted again. Now, with just weeks before both my wife and the kids go back to school, we’re making one last effort to get somewhere, anywhere before the summer is over.
Without shifting to flying s a mode of transport, San Diego and Los Angeles were the extreme limit of travel time with the kids. Since LA has “that mouse place” we decided to go elsewhere.
California is not the cheapest place to stay and we decided, for the first time, to try priceline.com.
You’ve no doubt heard their spiel. You name your own price, for flights, hotels, etc. In our case, we only wanted accommodations for $100 per night, which we felt would be quite reasonable for a three-night stay.
Of course, Captain Kirk, er, sorry, the Priceline Negotiator, says “go lower”, so, what the heck? We thought, “$75 per night would be a ridiculous price for even a passable hotel”, so my wife tried bidding on a 3 star or better hotel for $75 per night.
That wasn’t even a problem for the Negotiator, and in minutes we had booked our room, quite pleased with ourselves.
Then we started thinking: Hmmm, at this price, and with the drive time being what it is, and with the number of “all day” attractions in San Diego, we could really use an extra day. The time was not a problem, as we have a 9-day window, which our vacation is smack in the middle of.
Thus start the beginning of our “problems,” Priceline offers you the opportunity to attempt to extend your stay – at the same rate, if possible, so we decided to try that,
You’re given a choice as to which direction you wish to extend your stay (starting earlier or ending later) and how many nights. We could have chosen either earlier or later, but it was slightly more logistically desirable to extend the trip at the end, so we tried adding one night.
That wasn’t so easy for the Negotiator. (Sorry, Bill, you must be loosing your touch. There was a time you could have talked an alien computer into self-destructing, but now you couldn’t get an extra day out of a 3-star hotel for only $75,) The price came back as $116, which, because it wasn’t able to meet our bid, wasn’t a “done deal” like it would have been if they’d met our price.
“No worries,” we thought, “we’ll just try to see if we can secure $75 by extending the vacation forward a day instead.
This is where it got weird. Each time we attempted to get to the web page, following the link, we got redirected to a page that said, “Sorry we couldn’t get you $75, would you like the $116 price?”
If was as if the browser cache from hell was turned on kept redirecting us to the wrong page. I love our Macs, but you do occasionally meet a web page designed by some knucklehead who still thinks it’s cool to be IE-compliant, and so you take a few of these little abnormalities as par for the course and this can cause aberrant webpage behavior. (It’s far. far more infrequent these days.) So we went to a different computer… no chance of some cached data screwing us up there.
…and still we had the same problem. Alight, it was time to regroup. Sometimes you just have to take the computers out of the loop, so my wife called priceline about the problem.
It turns out, that isn’t a problem. It’s the way their system works. You can’t go back and try again on the other end of your vacation.
So were we screwed? Three nights at $75 and one at $116 is $85.25 per night overall, which really isn’t that bad. Not as good as $75, but still a price we’d be OK with.
You do have one other option with priceline: You can bid on a new hotel stay for the extra days – of course, that means you’ll almost certainly have to change hotels. A nuisance, to be sure, but… what if we tried bumping up to four-star only hotels for that same price? Would Bill laugh at us?
We decided to find out. We held the $116 option open on my wife’s priceline account and proceeded to bid using my account on a different computer – in case we encountered any more of those – “oh, once you’ve done it, you can never go back again” gotchas.
Once again, the Negotiator didn’t even break a sweat getting me a four-star room on the scenic downtown waterfront for $75.
In part 2 and/or perhaps 3 of this series of posts, I’ll analyze the accommodations we received. Both hotels appear to be perfectly nice (one more so than the other, obviously) from the information we can derive online. It remains to be seen how reality stacks up.
Now we know one very important thing about priceline, only pick four star hotels first and “go lower, wuss.”